By Andy Ellis
Remember the column in which I exposed myself as a mechanical tit? Probably not. Why would you? It’s not like I’m, ooh, I dunno, Oscar bloody Wilde. So here’s a refresher. At the end of that story I promised a follow-up on how I managed to untrue a perfectly spinning wheel. And then got punched by a woman. Said woman is my wife. And she tore a strip off of me for ruining a white-linen cooking apron in the process, a gift from her (now deceased) grandmother.
Now you’re up to speed. First up, she didn’t really punch me. But I know she wanted to. The intention was blood-shot into the whites of her eyes. I wish she’d socked me. The actual retribution was worse:
She clutched the grease-stained apron to her chest. Took a long, sad, look at the knob who is her husband (me) turned her back and reached under the kitchen sink. A bottle of Preen emerged. She sprayed. Sprayed and sprayed. The apron foamed. The ozone layer thinned. The dog collapsed to the floor – goofed on Preen (don’t try this on your dog).
She slammed the washing machine door. Set it to panic and stormed to Woolworths. I slumped into the couch, knowing that my bike, and my blind obsession with it, had suppressed my sensitivity, amplified thoughtlessness and blinded me to the basics of marriage 101 – yet again. I hate upsetting this woman.
Months pass. Saturday morning. We’re lovebirds, nesting under the duvet. The white-apron debacle is behind us (it didn’t clean, she gave it me, to wear while working on my bike, it’s so frikkin femme, but you know, out of respect for the dead granny… I wear it). Anyway, we’re lying there. Staring at the ceiling.
“It’s such a lovely day,” she says. “Lets grab a coffee. Go for a walk on the mountain. Or what about the beach?” My mind scrambles. Synapses collide. You see, somewhere between the hours of three and four AM I’d woken up and decided to spray my bike another colour. Ahh, gloss black. I’ll get a white saddle. Pearly white grips. Hmm, wonder if I should look for a set of white pedals? Probably a bit much. My imagination was a glitter globe of restoration romance. I fell asleep, a gentle smile upon my lips. And now – the bomb.
Given my recent behaviour the sensible response would have been: “Great idea, love. Give me a minute to jump in the shower.” Instead, I said:
“Um, I was hoping to strip my bike. I’ve been wanting to spray it black for months. And the spray guy only works on Saturdays. I can strip the whole bike in 30 minutes, flat. We can stop by my guy on the way to beach.” She paused. Then smiled. “Okay cool.” What a woman. I bolted out of bed.
Next second I’m standing over my bike. Naked. No time to dally. I looked at the apron. No time to tie a girly bow either.
I charged out of the starting blocks, careful to keep any dangling bits away from the crank. Twenty minutes later I’m staring at the bony frame of my bike. All the parts are scattered across the floor. Just one more component to go – the crank.
I scratched for the crank puller and set to work. “I’m done love,” I hollered over my shoulder, smiling like a Cheshire cat. And then, I looked back down. My gut burnt. Sweat blistered my brow. I stared at the cotton-thin thread of alloy coiling around the crank puller. “You’ve stripped the thread, you, you doos, you stripped the thread.” My voice quivered. Forty minutes passed. An hour. Two. I tried everything. It was frozen to the axle. Rigour mortis.
“What’s taking so long?” She spoke from the doorway.
“I stripped the crank. I can’t get it off.”
“What can you do about it?”
“Nothing, lets go to the beach. I hate this bloody bike.”
She smiled. “Bugger the beach. Lets get this thing off of the bike and go see the spray guy.” She must have seen the horror in my eyes. My bike had stolen my attention, again. I’d been selfish, again. I am helplessly trapped in a bicycle spell. Maybe she saw that. Or maybe she couldn’t bear to spend another moment seeing her pitiful man standing naked, spanner in hand.
Next thing we’re standing at a workbench inside of a silencer repair shop. A kind man flashes his oxyacetylene torch. “Are you sure you want to do this?” He asks. “Ja, I say. Heat the bitch. Smack it off. I’ve got a date with my wife.”
Originally published in Issue 19 of TREAD Magazine, 2010